Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Just Win, Baby, Win

There's that word again: "iconoclast," being attached to the recently departed Al Davis.

You can start with the obituary that appeared in the NYT by Bruce Weber (pre-written it would seem since Bruce is peddling cross-country on a bike heading toward NY and hopefully kudos from Mayor Mike for shrinking his carbon footprint).

You will find words like "controversial," "renegade," "combative," and "irascible" in the piece.  A quote from Don Schula who called him "devious," and one from Dan Rooney that was much stronger: "a lying creep."

The sportswriter Dave Anderson always kept the adjective "sinister" embedded with nice words so often that Mr. Davis asked Mr. Anderson why did he always use the word "sinister."  Al complained that didn't Dave know his mother read the Times? But he didn't mind the word.

All you need to know about Al Davis can be gleaned from his formative surroundings. Born on the Fourth of July (like George Steinbrenner), 1929 and graduated from Erasmus Hall High School on Flatbush Avenue, in Brooklyn

Al may have found fame, notoriety and fortune on the West Coast, but the East Coast never left him.  He was a Lord of Flatbush, all about egg creams, potato knishes, Coney Island franks and of course leather jackets.  He was Brando on a chopper, not Brando in his ripped underwear.  Tooth picks were meant to be chewed. Maybe even swallowed. 

His favorite symbol might well have been what he saw under his mom's kitchen sink: bottles with a skull and cross bones, signifying poison.  No safety caps in that era.

The theatrical producer Billy Rose was so disliked that when he died it was said no one came to the funeral, there was only the hearse.  A one car funeral.  As short as you can get. Not so for Al. All the adjectives seemed to fit, and he didn't seem to mind.  He induced heart attacks.

When there were court cases surrounding his proposed movement of the Oakland Raiders to Los Angeles, the owner of the San Diego Chargers, Eugene Klein, gave testimony against approving the move.  Klein was so infuriated with Davis his anger from the witness box induced a heart attack on the spot. 

Eugene Klein survived, eventually sold the Chargers and became one of the most successful thoroughbred race horse owners of all time, winning multiple Breeders' Cup races and Eclipse awards.  He loved telling people how happy he was owning horses, who didn't demand contracts and negotiations. He recommended horses to anyone who wanted to own something to do with sports.

Owning horses didn't put you in a league with Al Davis.


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